Va’etchanan 5782-2022

“Why the Sh’ma?”
(updated and revised from Va’etchanan 5763-2003)
The Sh'ma prayer is the central prayer that speaks of the acceptance of the dominion of G-d upon us. Two major questions come immediately to mind. Why do our rabbis speak of this text, calling it the acceptance of the "yoke of heaven," a phrase that is rather intimidating and daunting? Another significant troublesome question is the nature of the first line of the Shema. Why are we told to "love" the L-rd, with all our hearts, soul, and might? Shouldn't we be told to "believe" in the L-rd, our G-d, with all our heart, souls, and might?

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Devarim 5782-2022

“The Gentle Reproof”
(updated and revised from Devarim 5763-2003)

The book of Devarim records the words that were spoken by Moses in the last five weeks of his life, given as a last will and testament to his beloved people. In this parasha, Moses provides an example of how reproof should be given by alluding to the people indirectly, rather than announcing the exact sins that were committed. We may indeed learn from Moses how to give effective reproof with great gentleness.

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Matot-Masei 5782-2022

“The Massacre of the Midianites: Does Judaism Countenance Genocide?”
(Updated and revised from Matot-Masei 5763-2003)

In parashat Matot, G-d tells Moses to mobilize the army of Israel and exact vengeance on the Midianites. The rabbis of old are troubled by this call. They explain that “genocide” was never countenanced by Jewish law. In fact, it is mandated to always first sue the enemy for peace and give them opportunity to flee if they refused to live in a civilized manner and in peace. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition teaches that one should not be overly compassionate, otherwise one may wind up being cruel at a time when compassion is appropriate.

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Pinchas 5782-2022

“Can a Perfect G-d Sin?”
(Updated and revised from Pinchas 5763-2003)

In the long list of sacrifices that appears in parashat Pinchas, we learn of the sin offering that is brought on Rosh Chodesh, the new moon sacrifice. In Numbers 28:15, the Torah instructs the priest to bring one he-goat "for a sin offering unto the L-rd." However, the Hebrew “l’cha’taht la’Hashem” really means “a sin offering for G-d.” The Talmud in Chullin 60b, suggests that each month a sin offering is brought for G-d as atonement for G-d's “sin” of reducing the size of the moon. There is much to learn from G-d’s “sin offering.”

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Balak 5782-2022

“How Goodly Are Your Tents O’ Jacob”
(updated and revised from Balak 5764-2004)

Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, states that Balaam saw the schools of the Jewish people and was moved to say: "How goodly are your tents O' Jacob?" The "number one" priority in Jewish life is to ensure that committed Jews remain committed. There is no better way of ensuring that commitment, than by providing quality intensive Jewish education for our children. If we fail to do so, then our Jewish future is in jeopardy.

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Chukat 5782-2022

“A Tribute to Miriam, Our Sister”
(updated and revised from Chukat 5764-2004)

In parashat Chukat, we are informed of the death of Miriam. Who was Miriam, and why was she so special? From the scriptural texts and the Midrashic literature, we learn that, from the time Miriam was barely a child, she was already changing the course of Jewish history with her exceptional leadership abilities and wisdom.

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